Impact Fees, Citizen Minutes of Council Meetings, Urban Renewal

Everyone – this site was used during the vote for 300.  I have another site, littletonviews.com, that I have updated over the years.  I first started to post “citizen minutes” of council meetings because it took forever for them to be available and they were never complete enough for my taste.

Then life changed for me and we had a relatively cautious and conservative council and I forgo my weekly update for the citizens that were interested in reading my rendition of the meetings.

However, I believe it is necessary once again to provide minutes for the citizens.  The council no longer has written minutes so mine are the only written account of their meetings.   I will do my best to get the minutes of their meetings up on the Blog ASAP knowing that life does happen and I sure don’t get paid to do this!  I do it because it is important and if I don’t you won’t get the news anywhere else.  So if I am late – just know I am doing my best……

So go to http://www.littletonviews.com to get current information.  If I ever revive this site I will let you know – it just might happen if urban renewal starts going to town with our tax dollars!

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Elect Carol Brzeczek to City Council

I am running to replace Debbie Brinkman on city council.  I have established a new Blog for the election – CarolForCouncil.com.  Please visit the site to learn more about the election.  If you would like to help in the campaign effort – please contact me at carolforcouncil@yahoo.com

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Clarion Associates Report on Zoning Code Updates

Clarion Associates were hired by the city to review our zoning codes and make recommendations to update and modernize our zoning codes.  The committee has met three times with the consultant.  This is the document the committee is working from.

xxLittleton_Code Assessment PUBLIC DRAFT

 

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Kelo Style Eminent Domain Abuse Lives On In Denver

Follow the link to read about eminent domain in Denver – it does happen.  Click on the link or paste into your search bar.

http://reason.com/blog/2012/09/14/kelo-style-eminent-domain-abuse-lives-on

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Denver Residents Suffering from Too Much Density – Sounds like Littleton

This sounds so familiar – during the Broadstone public hearings the developer actually said the high density apartment building he wanted to build would reduce traffic.  I kid you not!  These are the same developers that are contributing to defeat 300.

Denver Post 3/1/2014

GUEST COMMENTARY

It’s time to take our city back, Denver

By Greg Kerwin
Guest Commentary

POSTED:   02/28/2015 05:00:00 PM MST98 COMMENTSUPDATED:   ABOUT 9 HOURS AGO

 

A condo building going up at 250 Columbine Street in the North Cherry Creek neighborhood.

A condo building going up at 250 Columbine Street in the North Cherry Creek neighborhood. (Brent Lewis, The Denver Post)

For Denver to thrive over the next 20 years, our leaders must not destroy the qualities that make our city an attractive place to live. Denver residents: Take your city back from developers and the city officials beholden to them, now, before it is too late.

The No. 1 complaint among Denver residents I know is that the city is choking in traffic and congestion, and getting worse every year. Denver quickly is becoming another Los Angeles, Phoenix or Atlanta — clogged with too many cars and too many people. And if you visit the mountains to escape the crowds, you get stuck in Interstate 70 traffic jams most of the time.

There’s no mystery why we’re drowning in traffic. Developers and their armies of lobbyists have cozied up to our public officials to shove density down our throats while regular citizens remain voiceless and powerless.

Denver officials have been approving new, oversized developments in quiet residential neighborhoods across the city, from Sloan’s Lake to Observatory Park, from Lowry to Cherry Creek North to Highland. No light rail? No problem. Somehow the transportation gods will provide a solution later.

Does the builder fail to provide parking for the new residents? Don’t worry. People ride bikes in Denver, so builders do not need to provide adequate parking. And isn’t there still some room left to park on city streets, in front of other people’s houses?

The buildings have no or reduced setbacks and tower over the sidewalk? No worries. We need to make sure builders have all the room they need.

The mantra of the Denver City Council, Community Planning and Development Department and the so-called Planning Board is this: The Denver metro area must make room for another million people by 2035. And every neighborhood must do its part to provide for more density, even if it has no mass transit and congested streets and intersections. No thought goes into whether this rapid growth is a good idea, or where all the water will come from for new and existing residents.

You just moved into the neighborhood and relied on existing low-density zoning from the 2010 zoning code update, and read that your area is an “area of stability” in Blueprint Denver? Too bad. We cannot honor those promises. People want to move to Denver and we must make room for all of them.

Case in point: a pending rezoning application for a small, 2.3-acre parcel of land next to Crestmoor Park. The site along Monaco Parkway at East Cedar Avenue now houses a church and is zoned for single-family homes. Developers at Metropolitan Homes in Englewood want to tear down the church and erect a 120-unit, 170-bedroom apartment complex in a neighborhood of single-family homes.

The proposed density far exceeds that of any surrounding neighborhood. Despite overwhelming opposition from the community, the developers went ahead with their purchase and walked out of negotiations with neighbors. They have the audacity to assume Denver “planners” will let them build whatever “product” suits them.

Our leaders are happy to bend over backward for developers and throw residents under the bus. This proposed Denver apartment complex will capture mountain views across Crestmoor Park, a public park. Never mind that the city’s own updated zoning for this site calls for single-family homes, or that the church is historic. Never mind that there is no comparable high-density apartment complex directly along Monaco Parkway anywhere between I-70 on the north and Hampden Avenue on the south.

At a Jan. 21 Planning Board hearing, dozens of residents took time away from work and family and packed a city meeting room from 3 to 9 p.m. and shared thoughtful testimony about how this high-density development will ruin their quiet neighborhood. There’s a preschool directly across the street. The owner and some parents from the center shared their safety concerns, as did members of the Jewish community, who walk nearby streets on the Sabbath when they don’t drive.

The registered neighborhood organizations closest to the site polled nearly 1,000 residents and found between 76 and 96 percent oppose this project.

Allowed just 3 minutes each, citizens gave impassioned testimony late into the evening about why the density, traffic and parking would harm the surrounding Crestmoor neighborhood.

None of that seemed to matter, because the developers think they’ve greased this deal.

Metropolitan hired current Planning Board member Jim Bershof as the property owner representative and contact person on the rezoning application to seek city and board approval for the zoning change. Neither Bershof, the city, nor his colleagues on the Planning Board see any conflict with Bershof’s role.

How did the Hancock-appointed Planning Board vote? All but one member approved it, despite overwhelming neighborhood opposition. Their message: Change is difficult. Denver needs to make room for more density. Our job is not to protect neighborhoods. Every neighborhood must pitch in. Too bad about more traffic on clogged streets and inadequate parking.

And more: We’re not allowed to consider traffic impacts as part of “public health, safety and general welfare” when approving new zoning (after they asked many questions about traffic patterns and justified the zoning change because the building would be located next to a major street). Adding a structure as big as the Monaco wing of George Washington High School on this small parcel is no big deal. And, by the way, we are not bound by the much-touted, glossy new 2010 zoning code.

The subtext: We were appointed by Mayor Hancock and our job is to say “yes” to any developer’s high-density proposal, or say “yes” around 97 percent of the time. We know better than the residents what is best for their neighborhoods. No mass transit? Don’t worry: As congestion gets worse in your area, maybe RTD will improve the bus service.

The rezoning application for the Crestmoor Park parcel is now on a fast-track for City Council approval. Although city planners forgot to give the required mandatory public notice for a Feb. 18 council committee meeting, planners and the council bent the rules to accommodate the developer and were able to maintain the originally planned March 31 public hearing date.

Denver residents: If you don’t agree with where our city leaders are taking us, and if you don’t think we need to destroy the things that make Denver a wonderful place to live, support the candidates for City Council in the May 5 election who oppose these policies. This place is changing fast, and developers see an opportunity now to capture every available lot in Denver to jam in more people and traffic.

It’s time to take our city back.

Greg Kerwin is a Denver native. He is co-chair of the Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation (INC) zoning and planning committee, and is litigation counsel representing a group of East Denver residents suing the city of Denver to challenge the Buckley Annex rezoning process. The views expressed here are based on Kerwin’s experience as a long-time Denver resident, and are not intended to state a position for INC or his law firm.

To send a letter to the editor about this article, submit online or check out our guidelines for how to submit by e-mail or mail.

 

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Money factors big in Littleton urban renewal election – DenverPost 2/16/2015

DENVER AND THE WEST

Money factors big in Littleton urban renewal election

By John Aguilar
The Denver Post

POSTED:   02/16/2015 12:01:00 AM MST1 COMMENTUPDATED:   ABOUT 7 HOURS AGO

Manager Lisa Roggenbuck and co-owner Marshall Movius in the showroom of Crown Trophy in Littleton.

Manager Lisa Roggenbuck and co-owner Marshall Movius in the showroom of Crown Trophy in Littleton. (Brent Lewis, The Denver Post)

Nearly $70,000 has been injected into  a special election in Littleton that will help determine the course of future redevelopment efforts.

The bulk of that sum — $67,405 — has been raised by opponents of Question 300, a charter amendment that would limit the city’s power and discretion to use urban renewal tools like eminent domain and tax increment financing, to lure developers into revamping aging retail centers in Littleton.

The list of contributors to Keep Littleton Strong, the campaign committee pushing for the measure’s defeat, includes heavy-hitting builders and real estate industry groups, like the National Association of Realtors ($17,000) and the Colorado Association of Realtors ($15,000).

By contrast, just over $2,000 has been raised by those backing the measure.

The election is set for March 3. More than 30,000 ballots went out in the mail last week.

“This big money that is getting involved is really scary,” said Paul Bingham, who heads up Your Littleton Your Vote. “We’re at a disadvantage.”

Bingham’s group last year collected nearly 4,000 signatures to get Question 300 on the ballot; many of its campaign contributions have come in small increments from retired Littleton residents.

The group claims that financial deals between the city and private developers — like tax increment financing, in which future tax revenues on new development are allocated to pay for upfront road and infrastructure improvements at a site — are not necessary and divert money from school systems and other taxing districts.

Littleton has declared four retail corridors in the city blighted and thus eligible for funds from its urban renewal authority, Littleton Invests for Tomorrow.

The storefront of the new location of Crown Trophy in Littleton.

The storefront of the new location of Crown Trophy in Littleton. (Brent Lewis, The Denver Post)

“There’s a lot in this city that they are calling blighted that is absolute nonsense,” Bingham said, pointing to a new King Soopers at South Broadway and West Littleton Boulevard that sits in a blight zone. “We want to take the vote out of the City Council and put it in the hands of the public.”

But realtor Stew Meagher, with Keep Littleton Strong, said holding elections on urban renewal proposals at a cost of $35,000 each will bog down revitalization efforts.

“In terms of the ability of a community to approach redevelopment, anyone with this kind of thing in their charter is going to be toxic to any developer,” Meagher said. “Do we really need these repetitive, circular elections every time one of these projects comes before the city?”

Keep Littleton Strong placed a competing measure — Question 2A — on the March 3 ballot that would prohibit the city from condemning property for urban renewal purposes but would keep intact the revenue and cost-sharing elements of the law.

Kay Watson, a Littleton realtor who was past president of the Colorado Association of Realtors, said her industry has thrown tens of thousands of dollars at the Littleton election because it doesn’t want to see the same kind of campaign sprout up elsewhere.

“If a property owner or developer has to wait for a special election to redevelop in an urban renewal area, that makes it very cumbersome for the owner to do anything with their property,” Watson said.

Urban renewal has been widely used in Colorado, including the Denver Pavilions on the 16th Street Mall, the Streets at SouthGlenn in Centennial and Lakewood’s Belmar. But it hasn’t been without controversy.

Superior Town Center, which is being financed through tax increment financing bonds,  drew large crowds to town hall in 2013 complaining that Superior was giving away too much to the builder.

And just last week,  an audience at a Wheat Ridge City Council meeting grew testy over an urban renewal deal that city leaders approved for a proposed residential and retail project.

At the state level, the legislature is considering a bill that would amend the state’s urban renewal statutes to ensure that a portion of tax increment financing revenues be shared with schools, fire districts and other taxing bodies.

John Movius, owner of Crown Trophy in Littleton and a backer of Question 300, asked that his business be removed from one of the city’s urban renewal areas because “I wanted to be in charge of my future.”

He said Littleton is “vibrant and growing” and doesn’t need to bring in developers by diverting tax dollars on a project for 25 years or more.

He added: “We’ve had a good number of business owners buying properties, sprucing them up and making them look amazing without having to deal with urban renewal.”

John Aguilar: 303-954-1695, jaguilar@denverpost.com or twitter.com/abuvthefold

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Counties Want More Say in Urban Renewal – Denver Post – 15 February 2015

Editorials

Colorado’s counties need bigger role in urban renewal

By The Denver Post Editorial Board

Posted:   02/14/2015 05:00:00 PM MSTAdd a Comment | Updated:   about 9 hours ago
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Denver’s flagship REI store on the South Platte River was partly the result of a tax increment financing project in the late 1990s. (John Leyba, Denver Post file)

An ongoing battle between cities and counties over the fairness of urban renewal districts has prompted a measure in the legislature giving counties a bit more say over the process. But the bill doesn’t go far enough.

Naturally, the debate is all about money: tax revenues and which government gets what after taxpayer-financed incentives come to play in development.

The fight goes to the very core of tax increment financing (TIF) and what it’s designed to do.

The idea behind TIFs is to take a “blighted” area and offer deals to developers to assume the risk of building a project.

The problem, from the counties’ point of view, is that a fat slice of their future tax revenues from such redevelopment is taken from them and used to repay loans to build, for instance, infrastructure to make the project possible.

But the way cities see it — and it’s cities that are at the helm of creating these projects — is that they are the ones with skin in the game, so to speak. They believe these new tax revenues wouldn’t exist without their effort and investment to prompt redevelopment.

Why should they give up any more power over the projects or revenues from it?

It should be noted that not just counties have concerns over TIFs. Special districts do, too, and for roughly the same reasons that counties cite.

Senate Bill 135, which advanced in the legislature last week, would give counties one seat on urban renewal boards that approve these projects.


While one chair on a board of up to 13 members is a voice, it’s far from veto power. However, Mark Radtke of the Colorado Municipal League makes the case that even one seat will give counties more leverage in reaching an intergovernmental agreement on a project that addresses their concerns. And he says that happens regularly even now.

Yet, it seems to us that counties deserve more power in this arrangement.

Last year, the governor acceded to the objections of cities and vetoed an urban renewal reform bill supported by counties, saying it went a step too far in prescribing how tax revenues would be used.

Perhaps that measure wasn’t the right fix, but it seems clear this bill isn’t adequate, either. When another bill on this topic drops — and we hear that will be the case — then a more fruitful discussion should begin about how to more fairly apportion power and money in urban renewal projects.

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